European policy consultants
Rural development and renewable energy

Commission proposes to tighten the rules on organic food

Strict EU-wide rules for organic food and drink aim to bolster consumer trust and promote Europe’s organic farmers, the care they take of the land, biodiversity and high standards of animal protection.

Currently some 2% of the foods bought by EU consumers are certified organic, with 200,000 farms (2% of the total) counting as organic.

As part of a wider consultation, the Commission is inviting views on:
- simplifying the rules – while ensuring standards are not watered down;
- ensuring that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – which are prohibited under the rules – do not accidentally enter the organic food chain;
- promoting organic products through labelling rules (especially the compulsory use of the European logo on all EU-produced organic products);
- updating the Commission’s 2004 action plan for developing organic farming;
- tightening controls, to prevent fraud; and
- addressing shortcomings in current import rules.

The online consultation is open until 10 April 2013. The Commission plans to table proposals for how the rules can be changed around the end of 2013.

Currently foods may only be called organic if at least 95% of their agricultural ingredients are organic. Organic farming emphasises environmental protection and animal welfare. Farmers must avoid or drastically reduce their use of synthetic chemicals such as fertilisers, pesticides, additives and medicines.

For imported food to be recognised as organic, the producing countries’ organic rules and certification authorities must be recognised as equivalent to EU standards.

When using the EU organic logo, manufacturers must also include the reference number of the certification authority and the names of the producer, processor or distributor who last handled the product. National organic certification marks may also be used alongside the EU logo.

The current rules for organic production are set out in Council Regulation No 834/2007 and Commission Regulation No 889/2008 .

Organic farming covers around 5% of the EU's utilised agricultural area.

This Regulation provides the basis for the sustainable development of organic production while ensuring the effective functioning of the internal market, guaranteeing fair competition, ensuring consumer confidence and protecting consumer interests.

It establishes common objectives and principles to underpin the rules concerning:

(a) all stages of production, preparation and distribution of organic products and their control;

(b) the use of indications referring to organic production in labelling and advertising.

This repeals Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91

Article 1 (2) sets out the scope of the Regulation. It applies to the following products originating from agriculture, including aquaculture, where such products are placed on the market or are intended to be placed on the market:

(a) live or unprocessed agricultural products;

(b) processed agricultural products for use as food;

(c) feed;

(d) vegetative propagating material and seeds for cultivation.

The products of hunting and fishing of wild animals are not considered as organic production.

This Regulation also applies to yeasts used as food or feed.

The Regulation:

This Regulation lays down specific rules on organic production, labelling and control in respect of products referred to in Article 1(2) of Regulation (EC) No 834/2007.

The Commission (implementing) Regulation: